May 18, 2007 -- Kids from several area elementary schools came to the Patrick Sweeney Police Headquarters Friday to hear about careers in law enforcement and government, then enjoyed a big buffet spread at the neighboring Violet Damidaux Police Pavilion.
The activities were part of St. Croixs roster of events commemorating National Police Week. Children at the open house wore fluorescent green and orange belts with shoulder straps, signifying their membership in the School Safety Patrol Program. During the morning, the students toured the station and heard officers from several divisions speak about the types of jobs and careers available in law enforcement on St. Croix.
They learned about the Traffic Investigation Bureau, the Criminal Investigations Bureau, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and other potential career areas. The highlight of the mornings activities was a K9 Unit demonstration of their dogs skills. During the open house, officers put a display of weapons confiscated from St. Croix schools against the wall and entertained questions about the weapons.
Adorning the plywood display board were a rifle, a half dozen handguns, all manner of knives, sharpened screwdrivers, homemade brass knuckles, ice picks, baseball bats and homemade clubs. Officers Neville Hall and Jennifer Matthews take the display around to area classrooms to talk about the need to stop violence in the schools.
Some were found during random searches; some after another student let us know about the weapon; some were found by accident, hidden around the school, Hall said. It is important (that) parents hear about this because they are the only ones who can really do anything about it.
"I would like to see parents really look at their children and even search their bags before they go to school and again when they come home. Thats the only thing that would really put a stop to it. What you see is just a portion of what weve confiscated. We have boxes and boxes full of more.
The Safety Patrol kids were more interested in having fun with their friends than broader messages, though.
I like doing the Safety Patrol, said Shelbi Mitchell, a student at Ricardo Richards Elementary. We do fun things all the time and I really enjoy it.
Henry James, founder and executive director of the school's Safety Patrol Program, said the program has been in existence for three years now and is growing rapidly. To be in the program, kids must maintain a certain grade-point average and have exemplary behavior, he said.
We are trying to teach kids the police are not the bad guys, James said. Also we teach them to monitor the halls in the school, to tell the other students theres no running in the halls and so forth. And we begin to prepare them for JROTC, to lay the groundwork for later work in law enforcement or the armed forces.
This year there are four elementary schools in the program: Ricardo Richards, Alexander Henderson, Evelyn Williams and Charles Emanuel. The program currently includes between 150 and 200 kids, all in grades four through six, but James expects that number nearly to double next year. Police Week activities continued Friday evening with a community-oriented variety show at the St. Croix Educational Complex. It will wind up Saturday with a mini triathlon for all law-enforcement officers at Cramer Park beginning at 6 a.m., followed by a beach party at the park.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation establishing National Police Week. Since then, departments throughout the country have commemorated the week with an array of activities. In 1982, another law made May 15 National Peace Officers Memorial Day. The Police Department held a march that day from Bassin Triangle to the Christiansted Wharf in honor of officers slain in the course of duty, and the Safety Patrol kids joined in.
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